Sunday, April 9, 2017

Uncertainty Ends...Eventually

While getting ready for church this morning, I watched a BYU devotional from the past week. It was called "Waiting Upon the Lord: The Antidote to Uncertainty" by Erin Holmes, a BYU professor in the School of Family Life.

I don’t think anyone lives a life without uncertainty at some point. That uncertainty, however, is very individual. Erin Holmes’ uncertainty was because of infertility, a trial I never have had to deal with. But I have had years of my own uncertainty. I haven’t yet determined if it increased, decreased or just changed with my divorce.

I appreciated listening to this talk today, even though nothing in it was new. The thoughts and quotes were much-needed, wonderful reminders to rely on the Lord and his timing as we keep our covenants.

“Though we live our lives in the real world, our dreams and goals are often reflected in ideals. When we experience a gap between the ideal and the real, we experience uncertainty.”

“The plan God has for you may not match the ideal you have envisioned...but you can have faith that together, you and the Lord can create something truly remarkable. “

She quoted a blog post by Ariel Szuch titled "You're Not Messing Up God's Plan for You."

“It’s tempting to think that God has some master plan that He’s measuring me against, and if I take one misstep I’ve missed my chance for happiness forever, or at the very least I’ll be doomed to walk around with the nagging feeling that I’m constantly disappointing God.

"But you know what? As I’ve examined that mindset, I’ve learned that I need a better understanding of God and what the term 'His plan for me' means.
I’m learning that God is much less a divine dictator who demands perfect compliance to a predetermined plan for our individual lives and much more a co-creator with us of the kind of lives we want to live.”

Wow. I have had the exact thought before that I have messed up my Heavenly Father’s path for me so there is no way to recalculate my route. I felt that even though I have kept my covenants and tried to seek the guidance of the Spirit, I must have made some wrong turns to end up a single mother. I love this reminder that our lives are not pre-determined or only one way is the right way. How beautiful that we can be co-creators with our Father to make our lives what He wants, no matter the struggles.

Here are a few other points from Erin's talk that stood out to me.
1. Actively seek God to find him.
2. God’s plan for you will not match the plan God has for others.
3. As we wait upon the Lord, we can choose faith and hope over fear.
4. If you feel lost, if you wait, you can feel God’s love for you.

She also quoted Neill F. Marriott from General Conference October 2015.

“Scripture says, ‘Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.’ This doesn’t mean all things are good, but for the meek and faithful, things—both positive and negative—work together for good, and the timing is the Lord’s. We wait on Him, sometimes like Job in his suffering, knowing that God ‘maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.’ A meek heart accepts the trial and the waiting for that time of healing and wholeness to come.”

I was grateful that she said it “doesn’t mean that all things are good” because some things are really horrible and sad. I have sometimes felt bad for not being grateful for my trials. I know that I can become stronger because of them and that if I stay close to the Lord, everything will work together for my good, but it is not fun to feel pain, confusion and uncertainty. But one thing is certain. When we stay close to our Father in Heaven and keep our covenants, the end actually is certain. We can live with Him again and all things will be as they should, and I imagine that we cannot fathom with our earthly, imperfect view what that really means.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Layer

I made this for my son Alexander's birthday cake and we really liked it. I took the Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake recipe that I've made many times and added something special, a creamy layer. It made a beautiful, soft, moist, black and white beauty.

I made the whole recipe for the Bundt cake, but it makes a LOT of cake. When I make it the original way with no cream cheese layer, it makes so much that I put some of the batter in ramekins and there's still plenty for the Bundt cake. When I added this cream cheese layer, I put some of the batter (no cream cheese layer) in 1 regular loaf pan and 1 small loaf pan and then used the rest of the batter for this cake. So it would probably be fine to cut the ingredients in half and you'd have plenty of chocolate cake, but I haven't tried that yet so I can't say for sure.   

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Layer
1 c. cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for dusting pan
7 1/2 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 c. boiling water
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/4 t. kosher salt
1 1/4 c. (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, lightly beaten
4 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. sour cream
1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
Cream Cheese Layer:
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1 T. butter
1T. cornstarch
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
1 t. almond extract or vanilla extract

6 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 T. unsalted butter
1/2 c. heavy cream

Have all cake and cream cheese layer ingredients at room temperature.

Preheat an oven to 325°. Grease the Bundt cake pan and dust with cocoa powder; tap out the excess.

To make the cake, in a bowl, combine the 1 cup cocoa powder and the chocolate. Add the boiling water and whisk until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth and blended. Set aside.

Over a sheet of parchment, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 30 to 45 seconds. Reduce the speed to low, add the brown sugar and beat until blended. Increase the speed to medium and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating until incorporated before adding more and stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla until incorporated, about 1 minute.
Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the sour cream and beginning and ending with the flour, beating just until blended and no lumps of flour remain. Slowly pour in the chocolate-cocoa mixture and beat until no white streaks are visible, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, leaving 2 inches from the top of the cake batter to the op of the pan. Spread the batter so the sides are about 1 inch higher than the center. (Pour remaining batter in greased loaf pan or ramekins and bake until top is well baked and tester comes out clean. Time for these will depend on size of pan.)
Make cream cheese layer by beating cream cheese, butter and until fluffy. Slowly mix in sweetened condensed milk, egg and extract until smooth. Pour mixture over cake batter in Bundt pan. (It will sink to the bottom of the cake so when it's done, they layer will be at the top of the cake.)

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached to it, 60 to 65 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool upright in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the pan onto the rack and lift off the pan. Let the cake cool completely, at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile make the ganache: In a heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream just to a boil. Immediately pour the cream over the chocolate and butter. Whisk until the melt and the mixture is smooth.

Pour the ganache over the top of the cake, allowing the ganache, to drip down the sides. Let the cake stand until the ganache is set, at least 15 minutes.  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mini Avocado and Hummus Quesadillas

These little quesadillas from Cookin' Canuck make a great snack, side dish or even dinner. This is what Elisa and I had for dinner tonight. They are easy to throw together and taste super good! I used street taco tortillas (which are small) instead of cutting the regular-sized tortillas. They're pretty cute and make this recipe even easier, although they aren't whole wheat. 

Mini Avocado and Hummus Quesadillas
4 whole wheat tortillas
¼ c. hummus
¼ t. ground cumin
1 T. minced cilantro
½ California avocado, cut into 12 slices
1 ½ oz. crumbled queso fresco

Using a 2½-inch circle cookie cutter (or a glass with a 3½-inch circumference and a small knife), cut 3 circles from each tortilla.
In a small bowl, stir together the hummus, cumin and cilantro.

Spread 1 teaspoon of the hummus mixture on each tortilla circle. Divide the avocado slices and queso fresco evenly between the quesadillas, arranging them on one half of the tortilla circles.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Place several quesadillas in the pan and cook until the tortillas are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Repeat with the remaining quesadillas. Serve.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Brownie Butter Cake

This moist cake from Rasa Malaysia was a big hit at my house. It's pretty quick to put together, even with the two layers. Since Bee said on her blog that she made it using the metric measurements and only converted the amounts online, I used the metric measurements also, using a kitchen scale.

Brownie Butter Cake

140 g (5 oz.) dark chocolate (broken into pieces)
50 g (¼ c.) unsalted butter
50 g (¼ c.) brown sugar
1 egg
35 g (¼ c.) flour
Butter cake:
120 g (½ c.) unsalted butter
100 g (½ c.) sugar
2 eggs
120 g (1 c.) flour
2 g (¼ t.) baking powder
50 ml (3 ½ T.) fresh milk
 Line a 4×8-inch loaf pan with aluminum foil and grease foil. Preheat oven to 350°.

To make brownie, melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Remove and leave to cool slightly. Stir in brown sugar until blended.

Add egg, mix well. Fold in flour, mix until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove.

To make butter cake, beat butter with sugar until creamy. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Fold in sifted flour and baking powder, alternately add in fresh milk, mix to form batter.

Spread the butter cake batter over brownie, bake in oven at 320° for 25-30 minutes or until cooked. Insert a cake tester in the middle to check doneness.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Not Just For Sinners

It's been a long time since I've posted much besides my missionary son's letters on my blog. He is now home! I have been wanting to take the time to share my thoughts on my blog again, even if it is just for me to have a place where my thoughts and the words of others that touch me are stored.

This morning as I was getting ready, I randomly chose a BYU devotional to listen to. As I was listening, I felt it was exactly what I needed today. It was Elder David A. Bednar's devotional from 2001 called "In the Strength of the Lord".

Directly after the sentence above, he goes on to say:
"We will become agents who 'act' rather than objects that are 'acted upon' (2 Nephi 2:14)." Elder David A. Bednar

For quite a while now, that idea has been in my mind because of counsel to me from a church leader to "act rather than be acted upon." This talk was another testament that we should not just hope that things get better when we have the power to change something. Elder Bednar gives examples of several people who prayed for strength to change the circumstance instead of just praying for their burden to be removed. We can pray for the enabling power of the atonement to strengthen us to do what we need to do when we cannot do alone. 

That is the part of Elder Bednar's talk that I was thinking about most when I again randomly chose another past BYU devotional. This time it was Sister Dew's talk "You Were Born to Lead, You Were Born for Glory". I have heard both of these talks before and I love SO much about her devotional address, but what I noticed as I was listening was that both of these devotionals stated that the atonement is not just for sinners, but also for daily use by faithful followers of Christ. I must have needed that reminder today.

"Brothers and sisters, do you know what I likely would have prayed for if I had been tied up by my brothers? My prayer would have included a request for something bad to happen to my brothers and ended with the phrase 'wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren' or, in other words, 'Please get me out of this mess, now!' It is especially interesting to me that Nephi did not pray, as I probably would have prayed, to have his circumstances changed. Rather, he prayed for the strength to change his circumstances. And may I suggest that he prayed in this manner precisely because he knew and understood and had experienced the enabling power of the Atonement of the Savior.

"I personally do not believe the bands with which Nephi was bound just magically fell from his hands and wrists. Rather, I suspect that he was blessed with both persistence and personal strength beyond his natural capacity, that he then “in the strength of the Lord” (Mosiah 9:17) worked and twisted and tugged on the cords and ultimately and literally was enabled to break the bands.

"Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints—for good men and women who are obedient and worthy and conscientious and who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully."
David A. Bednar

"Until I was in my thirties, I thought the Atonement was basically for sinners—meaning that it allowed us to repent. But then I suffered a heartbreaking personal loss and began to learn that there was so much more to this sublime doctrine.

"My solution initially to my heartbreak was to exercise so much faith that the Lord would have to give me what I wanted—which was a husband. Believe me, if fasting and prayer and temple attendance automatically resulted in a husband, I’d have one.

"Well, the Lord hasn’t even yet given me a husband; but He did heal my heart. And in doing so, He taught me that He not only paid the price for sin but compensated for all of the pain we experience in life. He taught me that because of His Atonement, we have access to His grace, or enabling power—power that frees us from sin; power to be healed emotionally, physically, and spiritually; power to “loose the bands of death” (Alma 7:12); power to turn weakness into strength (see Ether 12:27); and power to receive salvation through faith on His name (see Mosiah 3:19)"
Sheri L. Dew

I am so grateful for how much I have learned about the gospel and especially about the atonement as I have used it in my life to strengthen and lift me. The enabling power has helped me get through times when I thought it was impossible to make it through. I am grateful to know Jesus, not just about Him. I am sure that as long as I live, I will continue to learn more and to learn how to better use the atonement to bless my life and bless the lives of those around me.